MERTON PARK STUDIOS
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FEATURE FILMS
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The Balloon Goes Up 2*
Up with the Lark 4*
The Case of Charles Peace 3*
The Gorbals Story 1*
The Dark Man 5*
Assassin for Hire 3*
The Third Visitor 4*
Mystery Junction 4*
Wide Boy 5*
Crow Hollow 3*
Counterspy 2*
The Great Game 4*
The Limping Man 7*

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Death Goes To School 4*
Mukkinese Battlehorn 8*
The Little Red Monkey 6*
The Brain Machine 2*
The Crooked Sky 3*
The Key Man 2*
Man With A Gun
Hidden Homicide 6*
Horrors of the Black Museum 4*
Wrong Number 4*
Urge to Kill 1*
Bindle 2*
Egghead's Robot 5*

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A small studios - with big ambitions!
Short Films were made here
from before World War One,
but it was really the boom
of the British cinema industry
in the 1950s that was the
making of the studio.

Their most successful series
of films were made at this
time- the half hour Scotland Yard
series. Numerous B films were
also made here.
TV competition finally forced
closure in the late 1960s.

If you worked at the studios I'd be extremely pleased to hear your Memories.

There were two sound stages at the South Wimbledon studios at 269 Kingston Road. Telephone LIBerty 4291
In 1955, the studio manager was Simon Kershaw.
In 1964, the directors were K Lockhart Smith (chairman), AT Burlinson and Jack Greenwood (joint managing directors), Nat Cohen and Stuart Levy

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MYSTERY JUNCTION (1951)
directed by Michael McCarthy.

Reading the latest novel of Larry Gordon (Sydney Tafler), an old lady spots the author himself, on a train. A scream! A policeman has disappeared- he was guarding a prisoner travelling on board called Harding (Martin Benson).
His colleague (Ewen Solon) investigates, insisting all the passengers in the carriage alight at the next station. With heavy snow they're all trapped there for the night.
Huddled together in the waiting room, a spot of romance develops between Larry and Pat (Barbara Murray). Whilst a Helen Mason keeps staring at the prisoner, Mr Hooker and Mr Benson look plain suspicious. Then the phone lines are cut and the lights extinguished. Two shots. Suddenly Harding has a gun and our policeman is dead. Larry tries to convince Harding that the shots were really meant for him- Harding finally sees this and appoints Larry to find the killer. Harding reveals that at his forthcoming trial he's going to split on a man called Mason, who'll probably hang as a result.
As Larry talks to his fellow passengers, "it's a case of everybody telling me lies." Certainly a lot of people have a lot of dark secrets to hide. Another death. The poor station master is found dead. Then through the snow trudges a stranger- "my car got stuck in the snow." But it seems no coincidence that he is the father of the man Harding is alleged to have killed.
The police are next at the station. Det Insp Clark's arrival sparks a shootout. There's a confession and another death.
The remaining passengers are able to continue their journey on the morning train.

If you are a lover of endings that cheat, this is one of the best/ or worst!

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THE LIMPING MAN (1953)
My rating is 7* or 3* if you don't like the ending.
The director is credited as Charles de Latour. Probably Cy Enfield was the actual director.
Merton Park Studios were hired for this film, but most of the studio personnel seem not to have been used.

Franklin Prior (Lloyd Bridges) is flying into London Airport to remeet his wartime sweetheart Miss Pauline French (Moira Lister).
On the airport tarmac, as he offers a light to a fellow passenger, that man is shot and so Frank has to be questioned by Inspector Braddock (Alan Wheatley), who is ably assisted by his sergeant played by Leslie Phillips who brightens up the film by ogling every girl he encounters.
The dead man was Kendall Brown, coincidentally a friend of Pauline's. "That's fantastic," that's the ending to a film that builds up the tension well with blackmail leaving Frank "in a bad way, very bad." In a deserted theatre Frank chases down the sinister killer, the Limping Man whom he had spotted slinking away after the killing.
There are a couple of typical 50's songs included as a filler, by a French singer on stage, I found these even less tuneful and unmemorable than usual. One is sung by the young lady as well known magician Robert Harbin is tying her up.
The ending is something of a classic example of bad writing, so depending on how you like that, my rating is either three out of ten or seven.

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The Balloon Goes Up
(1942, directed by Rodd Davis, 2*)
This wartime story has little plot but plenty of musical numbers including Donald Peers singing You've Gotta Smile, I'll Soon Be Ethel Revnell and Gracie West sing We Do See Life, Ethel sings Winnie the Wench on the Winch. They end with the title song.

Ethel and Gracie are delivering uniforms to a canteen, where rehearsals are in full swing for Lady Hurst's concert. Sgt Ronald Shiner is the man organising it, and he gives the girls an audition. Ethel gives him Gunga Din, then they indulge in some typical cross talk. Ethel also sings an awful song unaccompanied.
They wash up and unhelp out generally, wanting to be invited to the dance and pull Shiner and Peers. But they need uniforms so they try and join up.
The recruiting sketch is long and not very original, "we're not getting anywhere." Their medical isn't much better. Finally they get to the dance.
To get out of camp they have to apply to the Welfare Officer, another dull sketch. In the end they are arrested for impersonating WAAFs. They escape and hide in a shed. Here they find children's clothing and elude capture in their new guise.
They help themselves to a "feast," in a place they surmise might be "a hideout for black market people." Two Nazis catch them but Ethel and Gracie turn the tables in a spot of needed patriotism, demanding the enemy salute, Hail Churchill, Hail Stafford Cripps, Gordon Richards etc.
The traditional concert ends the film which then moves into the stirring title number set against film of barrage balloons
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Up with the Lark (1943, directed by Philip Brandon, 4*)

A vehicle for Ethel Revnell and Gracie West from the eccentric producer EJ Fancey.
They play incompetent telephonists at the Hotel Royale, the "wolf" of a manager, Martel, is a black marketeer, "worse than a murderer."
Ethel and Gracie watch the gang unload their loot but are arrested. The policeman Britt persuades them to help catch the rest of the villains by keeping watch on them at Sunnybrook Farm, even though they've never been to the countryside in all their lives.
Comedy routines include Harnessing a Horse, Milking a Cow, and Being Frightened by a Skeleton.
At a dance, the tall Ethel dances with the shortest man there, while Gracie nicely partners the tallest. The crooks are baffled by their behaviour, "nobody could be quite as goofy as they pretend to be." But our improbable heroines stumble on the gang's hideout in the church crypt and find out their leader is none other than your friendly local vicar.

Songs: Let's Go Cuckoo, and Up with the Lark.
Note Adrienne Scott (Fancey) made her film debut as a child in one scene, in which Revnell and West are hiding up a tree

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THE CASE OF THE MUKKINESE BATTLEHORN (1955)

Perhaps the best film made at Merton Park.
This could hardly fail since the cast includes Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan and Dick Emery.
It's an affectionate parody of Merton Park's own 'Scotland Yard' series. The plot is unimportant but it seems to revolve round a rare Mukkinese battlehorn that is stolen from a museum. Sellers and Milligan are our boys in blue, investigating the theft with an amazing incompetence.
This is an affectionate Goons tribute to the detective film genre, narration and atmosphere are, at times, authentic Scotland Yard, but the clowning around definitely wouldn't receive Edgar Lustgarten's commendation!

Written and Directed by Harry Booth

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CROW HOLLOW (1952)
Starring Donald Houston, directed by Michael McCarthy

A kiss is always a good way to get a film moving. Bob is a country doctor who's asked Anne to marry her.
"You don't know anything about him," warns a friend. A whirlwind wedding and the happy couple move to Crow Hollow, Bob's enormous family home, where his three aunts also live, Judith (Esma Cannon) who has a laboratory full of spiders and insects, Hester (Susan Richmond) a do-gooder who practises alternative medicines, and Opal (Nora Nicholson), the cook. Plus the "beautiful, sensuous" Willow, a maid, or is she more than that? She is the most enigmatic of the characters, her past shrouded in mystery.
Dexter the gardener warns Anne, "don't let they three bully you;" sound advice as the atmosphere is very repressive, and Bob is so busy at his work she hardly sees him. Crisis number one occurs when Aunt Judith's pet poisonous spider escapes and lands on poor Anne. Anne is convicned this was no accident. In fact she really doesn't want to live at Crow Hollow any more. But Dr Bob explains he has to live there as he's duty bound to provide a home for his three aunts.
Anne learns about Bob's late mother, Marguerite, "she wasn't one of us," explains Aunt Opal. Dexter elucidates further that her death was rather a mystery. Visiting her grave, Anne catches a fever in the rain and is laid up in bed, and this broody film takes on the feel of a Victorian melodrama as the aunts become to her more and more smothering.
"I've been poisoned," she insists. Why else the vomiting? Only Tod Slaughter is missing as her fever reaches a crisis point. There's only one solution and Anne has the courage to quietly pack her bags.
"You're very wise," Willow tells her. She actually manages to get away to the station (Gomshall and Shere) but is too ill to board the train. Diana, a friend, notices her there, "you're in no fit state to travel." So, oh no!, it's back to Crow Hollow where she creeps upstairs to her room, there to discover Willow, a knife in her back, slumped over the dressing table. "It was meant to be me," she knows.
Police are called and the atmosphere now becomes more like a routine detective story. Willow's past is revealed. But there must, naturally, be one last attempt by the murderer to finish Anne off. Thankfully Dr Bob at the last minute proves to have a bit more sense than so far and paying attention to his wife's forebodings, manages to trap the naughty auntie. Which one of the three was it? Well, the clues were there....
There's a final scene, all smiles, at the end of the oppressive nightmare.

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WIDE BOY (1952)
starring Sydney Tafler
Directed by Ken Hughes

A typical role for Tafler, in a film which casts lots of dark shadows. The bluesy music from Eric Spear sets the mood, at least during the first half.
NILONS 12/6 PAIR - this is the opening shot as Benny prepares for another day as a street salesman. He's "a real Charing Cross Road boy," who speaks "as though he'd rinsed his mouth out with glycerine." Trouble is, says his girl (Susan Shaw) he "thinks small." But he senses the big time when he nicks a lady's purse at the Flamingo Club, finding inside a letter to "Caroline Darling," from Robert, an eminent married surgeon (Colin Tapley). He contacts them demanding "two hundred nicker." "I presume you mean pounds?" queries the posh doc! That night at 11pm Dr Robert takes the cash to Cleveland Mews and collects his envelope and letter. But when he looks closer, there's but one word in the letter "SUCKER."
Now Benny is able to show Molly how the other half live. More money is soon needed so 300 is ordered to be brought to the same venue. The letter is handed over at last, but now Benny gloats he has a photographic copy. This is too much for our doc and they fight. Benny shoots the doc.
Chief Inspector Carson (Ronald Howard) is soon on the scene and traces Benny, "last known, being in possession of stolen nylons." The police call at his flat just as Benny leaves via the window. On the run, he gets Molly to assist him. They have an assignation on a railway bridge. The law is following. Benny has only one option, his gun. There's a solemn ending with lots of smoke from steam trains.
A lesson in how petty crime can lead to worse things. A sort of very English adaptation of Angels with Dirty Faces.

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ASSASSIN FOR HIRE (1951, directed by Michael McCarthy, Merton Park Studios, 3*)
A man is shot in the street. After the villain is Inspector Carson (Ronald Howard), whose methods are a little unorthodox. He knows, like we do that the crook is Tony Riccardi (Sidney Tafler) who dotes on his younger brother Zeppe who is training to be a top violinist. In Charlie's cafe, policeman and crook have an oblique chat that establishes Tony's alibi as watertight, a poker game. Now outwardly Tony's profession is a stamp dealer.
Has he any vulnerable spot that Carson can exploit? We know, yet the law seems unable to see it. Mayerling the great impresario is doubtful whether Zeppe is ready for a solo concert, but as Tony promises to put up the 500, he agrees to promote the event. Helen, Zeppe's girlfriend, however , is doubtful whether a mere student could possibly cope with the pressure and perform such a recital.
Tony is obtaining the necessary cash from another job. Catesby approaches him for a Cape Triangular, double speak for sure. John Tyler is the name, next Friday night outside a Soho restaurant. The price is 500. Stott (Gerald Case), Carson's sidekick, finally suggests that Zeppe might be the weak link.
The two brothers row about Tony's domination. "I'm warning you," shouts Zeppe ominously, "if you ever do that again, I'll kill you." He leaves home to get drunk.
The rest of the events have a tragic inevitability. At 1am, Inspector Carson calls with the bad news that Zeppe has been "shot, murdered." It was a mistake, he explains, for Zeppe had, "by an odd coincidence" been dressed like John Tyler, the intended victim.
Sidney Tafler's Italian accent is rather wearing, though it never falters for one minute. The violin scraping also becomes grating, it even continues after the murder. Wallowing in remorse, Tony paces the streets, then confesses. But there's a good last twist. "It's all against the rules... the end justifies the means"

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THE THIRD VISITOR

Anton Bruckner's powerful music provides a suitably tortured opening as the question is printed on screen, Who Was The Third Visitor?
The film starts happily enough however, with Colin Gordon as Bill Millington giving one of his usual jolly comedy cameos. But the scene switches as a foreigner flies in to town, to confront Richard Carling. "I had a horrid sort of feeling something might happen."
It did, and Inspector Mallory (Guy Middleton) is on the case. One clue is a message in Carling's home which reads Oliver is here arrived today Wednesday.
Mallory has three main suspects. Firstly the rather simple Hewson who had built Carling a secret chamber in his house, and he says he's glad Carling is dead.
Secondly, Mrs Steffy Millington (Sonia Dresdel), married to crime writer Bill, who we see concocting a story with her friend Vera Kurton about how Vera had stayed last night with her. This is to protect Vera against her husband
the third suspect, Jack Kurton who was also Carling's business partner. They had rowed.
Mallory is soon on to Vera's deception, but the whole denouement is so plodding it seems to be from a stage play done rather poorly. Each is interviewed separately. Steffy claims Vera arrived at her home at 10.30, though Vera says it was just after 11 and Bill states it was 10 o'clock. "Sounds a bit crooked to me, but I believe he was speaking the truth."
Another clue is found, a note from the dead man himself. To the Police. If I am Murdered, look for James C Oliver of Chicago and New York.
Inevitably, Mallory uncovers the fact that each suspect did visit Carling that fateful night as Mallory gets to "the truth and nothing but the truth." However he has to admit, "I must say it's not easy getting the truth out of you people."
Sonia Dresdel gives some style to her part, and there are some nice touches in her brushes with Mallory, who confesses to her, "I wish all my routine was so pleasant." Yet she has a losing battle with the scriptwriter, though there is a well prepared final dramatic ending which maybe the astute Inspector, like me, failed to spot
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THE KEY MAN
(1957, directed by Montgomery Tully, 2*)
One impressive fight scene takes place in a barber's shop, as lights flash off and on. Otherwise this routine drama gradually picks up pace.
It begins on VE night with the arrest of John Arthur Smithers after a robbery in which Domigo had been killed. Ten years on he's out of jail and has gone underground.
Radio broadcaster Lionel Hulme (Lee Patterson), well known for his series Crimes Of The Times, tries to trace him and the 20,000 missing cash. Trouble is, he "looks like 100 other guys."
He meets several people who have seen Smithers recently, but not all are entirely truthful. Hulme is also being tailed by a shadowy figure whose face we never see. One barber is duffed up and Hulme has a punch up with him also.
Smithers' wife Eva 'Gaby' Smithers (Hy Hazell), nightclub singer, holds the key to where the cash is hid, and her husband offers a 50-50 share if he will collect the cash from a safe deposit. Hulme's motives are perhaps the most interesting part of the film, is he going to keep the money for himself? I didn't find him a very likeable character, unpleasant to his longsuffering wife, an early anti-hero.
Hulme tries to open the deposit box, but that shadowy character, who has somehow crept into this security vault, Haddow the partner of Smithers, holds Hulme at gunpoint and takes possession of the money.
Showdown on a bomb site with Hulme almost a goner, then police give chase and Haddow forces Hulme at gunpoint to drive fast. Over Tower Bridge, then Hulme crashes.
A final rather long winded explanation of it all, but Hulme is triumphant, "I got the story"
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DEATH GOES TO SCHOOL (1953)
Director: Stephen Clarkson. The direction and script are plodding, so no wonder the actors exhibit little enthusiasm for their parts.
The place- Abbotsham School for Girls. Headmistress Miss M Halstead MA. According to the script the school is near Guildford. But Wanda tells me the opening scene was filmed at Cannizaro Park by Wimbledon Common, the 'school' was in fact Cannizaro House. Her mother was an extra, she and her classmates were picked up by coach from Merton Park High School for Girls in Whatley Avenue in Raynes Park. After the filming the girls were given gym bags, so these were probably the ones that featured in the film and had served their purpose! (Wanda's mum later worked in Dellars the Florist on Wimbledon Hill,they had a contract to supply flowers for sets used by the studios.)

Teacher Miss Helen Cooper is found dead by Julie, a pupil, in break time. Golly! On the case is the cynical Inspector Campbell (Gordon Jackson), "he's very nice, not a bit like a policeman." His silent assistant is Sgt Harvey (Sam Kydd). When Campbell learns that this school is all girls, he concludes, "it shouldn't be difficult to find a motive!"
From the headmistress he soon discovers that Miss Cooper was disliked by one and all. Clues are: 1) A size five shoe print, 2) Miss Shepherd's scarf used as the murder weapon, 3) a matchbox with the label Jones, Tobacconist, Victoria.
So to the staff, and first to be questioned has to be Miss Shepherd, the music teacher (Barbara Murray). Her shoe size however is 7. She tells the police there had been "the usual row at tea," with "Miss Cooper in the centre of it." Yesterday Miss Cooper had accused Miss Shepherd of using her position as house mistress to win a competition. Phew! "Cross her off, Harvey," comments a rather smitten Campbell.
French mistress Miss Stanislaus is next to be interrogated. . Then Miss Hopkinson is interviewed, also size 5. Stanislaus said she and Cooper were enemies. Miss Hopkinson agrees she didn't like the way Miss Cooper "bullied" the younger children. Miss Oliphant also quarrelled with the dead woman. And she is size 5 too! Miss Essex can't be found. She has tried to cover up for Miss Shepherd, on whom she had a "crush." Crumbs!
"They're all covering up," concludes the shrewd Campbell. As a "mere man" he finds it hard to sort out women's minds, so would Miss Shepherd help him? She visits the parents of one pupil, Diana Lawley. She accuses Mr Lawley, brother-in-law of Miss Hopkinson, of having an affair with Miss Cooper. And he works near Victoria station! Gosh! He admits having an affair with Miss Cooper, but he'd broken it off the night she was killed.
Pupil Brenda is brought by her mother to tell Campbell what she had overheard in the library. Miss Oliphant had been arguing with Miss Cooper, shouting she would "shut her mouth for good."
"In the face of a welter of lies," and I might add, of red herrings, Campbell produces his case. We're told one late vital piece of info as the proof is forthcoming when Miss Shepherd produces that size five shoe.
The best scene in a very static film is when Campbell and Harvey search the girls' locker room and have some fun delving into the girls' bags (shoebags that is). Crumpets!
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THE GORBALS STORY
(1950, directed by David MacKane, 1*)

Set in the Glasgow" of grey skies" with its millions "who don't get a chance," here's a unique film with a largely native cast including familiar faces like Roddy McMillan. Though there are a few excellent cinematic shots, this is patently a staged play and outside Scotland it cannot have been commercially viable.
It's a portrait of John (Russell Hunter) and his "search for someone," his rejection and resulting drunken fury, but at the start and end he is a successful artist and how he succeeds in his "escape" is hardly explained, which is where the film really fails

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THE LITTLE RED MONKEY (1954)
starring Richard Conte, directed by Ken Hughes.

An unusual Merton Park film, in that they bow to the trend of having an American star, but at least Conte is an accomplished lead, with not too much star spangled flag waving.

At the Norden Research lab a top scientist is shot dead. Dr Barnes, noted physicist is next to go. American No1 brain on Guided Missile Warfare is not immune either- shot by a sniper. "How about the monkey?" query reporters, referring to a red monkey seen nearby on each occasion. As this is Merton Park Studios, there's only one man who can solve this mystery- Russell Napier, alias Harrington of the Yard.
His task is to protect Dushenko, another Guided Missiles Expert, just escaped to the West. Protecting US interests is Bill Locklin.
Dushenko is placed in a London hotel, awaiting the 1am flight to USA. His room is well guarded so our two officals can relax and take a meal with Harrington's attractive niece Julia (Rona Anderson). Then she escorts Bill on the obligatory sightseeing tour of the capital, and after another familiar interlude at a night club (no singing for once), there's a kiss or two. But the romance is shattered when we hear Dushenko has been shot by a 2.2 bullet in the back of the skull. Luckily it's only a guard who's been killed, though police allow the press to believe it was the defector. One perceptive reporter (Colin Gordon) puzzles "Harrington just doesn't look like a man who'd just lost his job-" so his headline reads "Police Murder Hoax."
The 'corpse' is secretly removed to Maryhill Sanatorium in Esher as fog has grounded all flights for 24 hours. "If anyone can get in here, he'll have to be invisible," boasts Insp May.
The delay allows Bill to resume his romance, but both are kidnapped by foreigners in order they can learn Dushenko's new hiding place. Naturally Locklin won't cave in, but what about Julia? He's sent back to Uncle with the proposition "Julia for Dushenko." Not possible of course, so the half battered Bill tries to discover where she's being kept. Our eager reporter has published Dushenko's photo which elicits Bill's wrath- "what kind of a guy are you? If I punched you in the nose, do you bleed ink?!" But the pair succeed in finding where Julia is hidden and our hero reporter gets a 999 call through before being shot dead. The police arrive, but too late to prevent the 'monkey' being driven away to Dushenko's hideout.
There, all is peaceful: "everything seems pretty quiet here." But watch out for that monkey! Inside the sanatorium he climbs though you've guessed what happens- Bill is on hand to shoot the assassin.
Bill flies off to America with his prize whilst Julia gives him a final wave. "I love you," over the aircraft noise, she feebly shouts.
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COUNTERSPY (1953)
starring Dermot Walsh and Hazel Court
Directed by Vernon Sewell. A slow moving film with an abundance of semi-wooden lines and characters performing slightly inexplicable actions. Nothing too bad, but that sums Counterspy up- bland. Uninspired even.

Mild mannered Mr Manning (Dermot Walsh) has arrived to audit the books of Trident Marine Engineering. He works slowly, methodically, and all the while fishy things seem to be going on in the background. A 'message' is brought by a Patrick Johnson for the boss, Paulson. When someone tries to run down this Johnson, Paulson claims not to know the man, even though he'd been seen talking with him earlier. "There are some very queer goings-on," Manning confides to his wife later, "no, not that sort of queer."
Then a further mystery when a woman calls to get the 'message' back. To Manning she spins a yarn about Paulson blackmailing her. Manning falls for it and helps himself to the packet and delivers it to her flat where of course he stumbles over a corpse- that of the shadowy Johnson, drowned in the bath. Deciding to open the packet he finds it contains pictures and some sort of formula. Leaving by the back window, he's spotted by the brutish Rex (improbably played by Bill Travers) and is taken for questioning. But he's managed to post the packet addressed to his home, in a letter box.
Manning is interrogated by a Foreign Agent (Alexander Gauge) who wants those documents. Two employees of Trident rescue him but his wife (Hazel Court) has now got the packet and has taken it to work with her- she's a dancer in the chorus. Fortunately the police contact her and she agrees to give the packet to her husband that evening at the shortly to be closed Festival Gardens. However the police prove rather dim and Manning eludes them, as he believes he's wanted for the murder of Johnson. Too late, he realises that those who have aided his escape are the foreign spies.
The convoluted plot is explained to Mrs Manning ("dear me!"), and usefully to us also, and she agrees to another police plan, to do whatever the spies tell her if they contact her. They do, and she is driven to the sanatorium where her husband is being held. Manning has been placed on the operating table to make him talk, but fortunately the police this time have proved more adept at tailing Mrs M and there's a showdown in the operating theatre- a rather meaningless finale.
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The Case of Charles Peace
(1949, directed by Norman Lee, 3*)
An early Merton Park feature, based on a theme that was to become their mainstay- the courtroom.
Charlie is "a remarkable character," but also "a man of evil," on trial in Leeds in 1879 for murder. The prosecution's version of events is told partly in flashback, with a heap of poetic licence for irrelevancies that any Edgar Lustgarten would have eliminated from the script. However it does add to our picture of this outwardly respectable little man, ambitious, clever but also "mighty unpleasant." Character actor Michael Martin-Harvey gives a convincing impression of his slimy double nature.
Main witness is Mrs Katherine Dyson, for whom Charlie had framed some pictures- that was his trade. The question is, had there been intimacy? Despite warnings from Mr Dyson, he pesters her and one night Dyson interrupts them and is shot. He eludes police, killing one, for which crime, another innocent man is wrongly convicted.
Coming jarring into this main case is the story of a daring cracksman in London, whom police eventually catch. It is Charlie under another name, he's got another wife, a flighty floosie, and it takes a while for the link between the two men to be proven. Though Charlie jumps off the train carrying him back to trial in Yorkshire, he is recaptured.
The defence question Mrs Dyson in detail about her account of her husband's shooting. She's not exactly consistent but the jury's verdict is unanimous. Thus an innocent man, about to be hanged for the policeman's murder is exonerated.
The story drags on with a scene between Charlie and his first wife, he repentant of his sins, and ending with a speech to the press for the condemned man
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Urge to Kill (1960)
The story (Hand in Glove) was originally written by a Charles K Freeman and Gerald Savory for tv's Armchair Theatre.

A difficult story about a simple young man is well conveyed, and the contrast with the evil killer is well made, but it's all somehow a little too obvious, and leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth.
Auntie B (Ruth Dunning) runs a boarding house with her nephew Hughie. Staying here are Forsyth, a religious nut (Wilfred Brambell) and jolly Charlie Ramskill (Howard Pays). One night the daughter of a local landlord, Jenny, is murdered, slashed with broken glass. Hughie had been out until midnight and Charlie seen by Lily about 10pm. Gossip spreads that since Hughie is "a bit barmy" he's the killer. "You never know with these mental cases," is also the police attitude as Superintendent Allen (Patrick Barr) orders a tail on Hughie who is very secretive about where he goes each night.
When Hughie slips out next evening, Auntie B, Forsyth and Charlie Ramskill go searching for him. But in fact Ramskill spends his time snogging in the garden shed with Gwen, "you do kiss in a funny way," she teases him. He strangles her.
Hughie is promptly arrested. When his coat and mouth organ are discovered nearby, the case seems watertight. Yet Allen is convinced he's innocent. Hughie is sent home. Unhappy locals hold a meeting in the pub with Auntie B anxiously watching on. This gives our killer the chance to persuade Hughie to go out again. But he doesn't want to, or need to, he says. His present for Auntie B, a collage made of broken glass, is finished now.
Realising suspicion might be turning his way, Charlie proposes to Lily but she sees through his charade and he has no option but to strike again. "I couldn't help it," he warns her.
Hughie is arrested once again but Supt Allen with some clever probing coaxes Ramskill to give himself away. As Lily is still alive, she will testify against him
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HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM (1959, directed by Arthur Crabtree, Merton Park Studios, 4*)-
Gail's present of binoculars is a nasty booby trap- she is blinded and killed by them. Investigating are Supt Graham (Geoffrey Keen) and Inspector Lodge (John Warwick), two favourites of the Scotland Yard film series. Behind it all is "fiendishly clever" Edmond Bancroft, a journalist, played by Michael Gough who becomes ever more frenzied in his best manner as the film goes on.
This "deranged maniac" has a cellar in his posh house full of macabre instruments of crime and torture, plus "new electronic equipment" of his own nasty devising.
After rowing with his girl Joan, here's his next victim, decapitated in her bed, "the most gruesome sight I've ever seen." Next victim is Aggie who has sold him some nasty weapons and has tried backmailing him.
The mayhem continues when Bancroft's doctor diagnoses he's gone potty, "you leave me no choice"- so the doc winds up in a cauldron of bubbling foamy stuff. Then his assistant Rick's girlfriend Angela sees the dread cellar and Rick has to be persuaded to bump her off, at the Tunnel of Love in a funfair. But our police are on to him and Rick is cornered on the Big Wheel, looking more and more like a zombie. A dramatic conclusion and "the case of the monster killer is closed."
This is more a detective story with a smattering of horror, than a horror film with a smattering of gore.

One embarrassing scene- Joan dances a sexy number, but she is no Marilyn Monroe, no convincing actress even. But she isn't the only poor actress in this
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THE BRAIN MACHINE (1956)
Written and directed by Ken Hughes
Produced by Alec C Snowden.
Distributed by RKO, which perhaps explains a lot.

Handcuffed, Jarrett is brought to a mental hospital where Dr Allen (Patrick Barr) tests him with the latest in brain technology. "A very dangerous man" is what the machine deduces. Pretty advanced stuff, as Jarrett is indeed a convicted murderer!
Frank Smith (Maxwell Reed) is a belligerent patient of Dr Roberts, Allen's estranged wife (Elizabeth Allan). She notices Smith's brain scan has an e e g pattern very similar to Jarrett's. But trouble follows as John Horsley, foreshadowing his later role as the incompetent Doc Morrisey, is daft enough to allow Smith to walk out of the hospital. So the police are alerted, in the shape of Merton Park's resident cop on the spot, Russell Napier. He's Inspector Durham, but what can he do: "if the police spent their time tracking down would-be murderers....." Preventitive policing is not for this copper!
The next scene is fairly predictable. As he believes Dr Roberts may now know too much of his criminal activities, Smith kidnaps her. At least that gives Inspector Durham a "sense of urgency." Dr Allen however also joins in the search off his own bat. His questions stir the shadowy rival crook Simon, whom Smith is afraid of, to arrange for Mrs Smith to be bumped off. Her death almost gets our policeman cross: "did you take us for complete imbeciles?" he asks Dr Allen. Don't answer that one!
Allen has at least seen Mrs Smith's killer- and he identifies Ryan (Edwin Richfield) from the Yard's Book of Villains. Ryan is a stooge of Simon. Next victim- Smith himself. In the showdown both get shot. Fortunately for Smith, he still has the kidnapped Dr Roberts with him. In the most memorable scene in a noisy dance joint, in some pain, Smith consents for her to get medical help. She phones her husband, but with the warning from Smith: "if you bring the law with you, you'll have to fish your wife out of the river."
Husband and wife are reunited. Remarks Smith sneeringly: "if I had a violin, I'd play it." He's treated but learning his wife is dead he finally gets unhinged. He heads for Simon and revenge, as the police plod into the final denouement.
What had begun, as the title suggests, as a medical drama, has collapsed into a gangster shootout.

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HIDDEN HOMICIDE (1958)
starring Griffith Jones. Directed by Tony Young who also co-wrote the script with Bill Luckwell.

A pre Edgar Wallace using some background music that appears later in that series.
Michael Cornforth has been perusing his third draft of 'A Life of Shelley' before he retires to bed, in a room that looks to me with its tiling more like a bathroom. When he awakes he has a gun in his hand, and he's in an isolated country house. Personally I'd have phoned the police, but instead he looks round and discovers a corpse. Two hikers call, seeking shelter from the rain, and he allows them inside. One of them spots the body and he explains his improbable tale. He doesn't think he killed the man, even though he knows who he is- his cousin Martin whom he's not seen for years. Jean (Patricia Laffan) does believe him, though her friend Marian is more doubtful.
Back home neighbour Mungo Perry tells Michael he had had a visitor at a quarter to one last night. Then this morning a blonde had exited his home. Michael phones Bill of the Evening Post, an old friend. He's played by Bruce Seton, and with all his old authority of Fabian of the Yard, he solves how it was done in one sentence. "It's got to be someone who knows you pretty well," is his most perceptive observation. He takes away a fingerprint from Michael's and it turns out to be identical to one found on a weapon used two years previously in a murder in Australia!
The police finally leap into action, in the form of Robert Raglan. Hiker Marian has blurted out her story. But when they pay a visit to Martin Cornforth's house, there he is alive and well! End of case? No, says the wily inspector, "I've lived with trouble so long, I can smell it." He's right of course. Michael had been impersonating Martin.
Bill reckons the key to the mystery must be Martin's will. Things move fast now. Jean has taken a shine to Michael, and follows a suspicious man (James Kenney) she sees leaving Michael's home. She trails him, all the while carrying her heavy suitcase, on a 77A bus.* Michael learns his brother had married an American cowgirl, Colorado Kate eight years ago. However the police swoop to arrest Michael, who makes a run for it. Mungo has been murdered, Michael's own iron being the weapon.And Jean is inveigled on to a barge by the new boyfriend of Martin's ex wife, Kate. Bill has discovered Kate is performing at a theatre and manages to pick up Michael and together they watch her cowgirl act. But the police are trailing Michael too. A car chase follows, but she loses them, and they lose the police. They learn where she lives- the barge, where they find Jean. Kate is rounded up and the surprising truth is revealed.
Concludes the ex Fabian star: "You can never tell with blondes can you? Can't even tell whether they are blondes."
Note- the 77A was clearly a Merton Park favourite, as it also appears in a Scotland Yard story.

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WRONG NUMBER (1959)
Director: Vernon Sewell
Another mail train robbery, with one difference, the thief is a woman. She's Maria (Lisa Gastoni), her boss the suave Dr Pole (Peter Elliott).
Her boy friend Angelo (Peter Reynolds) is to do the next job, which she wants to be the last, as she hopes to run off with him.
It's a robbery of a Royal Mail van, Angelo and Max cleverly hide in the van, and hold up the driver. But the guard nearly coshes Angelo. "Look out Angelo," cries Max. Angelo stuns the guard, who later dies. Back at Dr Pole's, Maria waits anxiously for the tip off from Angelo that they have got away safely. She is occupied fending off Pole's attentions.
Elderly Miss Crystal (Olive Sloane) phones her friend, but gets confused, and by mistake phones MILL 6451, Dr Pole's number. Maria answers, relieved to be hearing from Angelo. She mentions his name before realising it is a wrong number.
The gang return with the loot. However Pole orders that they burn all the 5 notes, as they are numbered. That doesn't go down too well. The rest of the crooks agree to share them out, despite Pole's protests.
Next morning, Miss Crystal reads the newspaper report of the robbery. She remembers the name Angelo and phones Whitehall 1212. Police tell her that a wrong number cannot be traced. But the old lady recalls the number she did dial in her muddle and in a charming scene with two fine actors, she informs Inspector Blake (John Horsley) what she knows. As they chat, she confides that she was once a suffragete- "I hit a policeman!" The inspector becomes suitably interested as they puff cigarettes. But when they check on MILL 6451, it proves to be that of Dr Pole, a professor of music.
Miss Crystal calls at Dr Pole's home. She is followed in by the police

One of the police cars: UUV133. The mail van is HGF78
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THE CROOKED SKY (1956)
The Treasury is worried about counterfeit pound notes. Bruce Seton, once Fabian of the Yard, here as Inspector Macaulay, has lost his old detective's instincts and is baffled.
He needs an American star to come to his aid! Big Mike Conlin (Wayne Morris) is the man to bust the racket. He is called in when "it's the finish" for American Tom who is trying to break away from the gang's clutches. The nerve of the villains- they stab him right outside the gates of Scotland Yard!
Mike poses as an efficiency expert, investigating Globe Link the airline for which Tom used to work as a radio operator. He is out to prove the link between Tom and the counterfeiters.
After an initial tour of the company, he is extraordinarily fortuitously relaxing in the nearby woodland when there's one of those everyday occurrences, he witnesses two gunmen shooting Wilson another airline radio operator. Conlin finds a forged printing plate the dead man was carrying.
Sandy Hastings runs radio operations from the ground, her brother Bill has also unfortunately been sucked into the racket. Like Tom, he's a worried man.
With his sister they visit 224 Belgrave Square where a Mr Fraser runs an illegal gambling den. As Fraser is played by Anton Diffring, we need look no further for the leader of the baddies! He struts round his den, rich and smartly dressed. It must be him! As confirmation, the two killers also lurk in the house!
Another death! "Half of Scotland Yard" are at the house of a "Mr Smith," who has committed suicide. He has left a helpful clue, for twenty five forged pound notes are found in his pocket. We know, though poor Inspector Macaulay doesn't yet, that Smith had been gambling at Fraser's and had lost heavily. The 25 had come from Fraser.
With all these killings, Bill really is getting cold feet. Fraser reassures him what will happen if Conlin gets too near the truth. "If I find he's too efficient, you'll find when you return he's quite efficiently taken care of." Emphasis on Efficiently.
Now Mike is snooping around 224. He finds evidence of gambling. And then some counterfeit notes. But Fraser and his henchmen are ready for him. "Take him away." He's transported to those woods but instead of being finished off he puts up a fight and gets away. Fraser is not amused by their inefficiency, "all you had to do was rub him out, and make it look like a straightforward suicide." Clearly Fraser must do this one "personally."
The case against Fraser is complete when he argues with his floosie, who borrows 1,500 in forged oncers from his safe to pay for a desirable necklace.
Bill smuggles in the next batch of forged notes from USA. The police are ready to swoop as he arrives at 224. But Bill really has got cold feet and there's no cash. Poor old Inspector Macaulay bursts in on the best scene in the film, a chamber music recital with the two henchmen playing violin and piano! But Mac spots a clue and there's a round of fisticuffs as the gang are arrested. Except for Fraser, who in the best traditions has deserted his HQ. He has forced Bill to take him on a plane out of the country. It so happens Mike Conlin is searching that same plane for the forged notes which he believes Bill has left there. Mike is shot by Fraser who would have got away, but for Bill. who proves he's not such a bad sort after all. It's a happy ending in this exciting closing scene. But otherwise this is a rather routine film not helped by Wooden Wayne, Morris that is.

(Although filmed at Merton Park, this is an independent production, directed by Henry Cass, made without any of the studio's regulars.)
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BINDLE
(1966, directed by Peter Saunders, Merton Park Studios, 2*)

Cockney charmer Bindle (Alfie Bass) is a "lazy good-for-nothing," nagged incessantly by his wife. He works in the removals business but yet another" unavoidable accident" when a van load of furniture is lost, costs him his job.
Well, all Bindle did was enjoy a pint or two at the pub, the van parked outside, but this kid made it disappear. The van eventually turns up with the client's wife locked inside, but the comic possibilities are never developed to the full. Nor is the scene when Bindle after a long nap, goes to a temperance meeting, where his brother-in-law generously offers Bindle a job, only to be pushed into a box of vegetables.
This film has good production values, a fine music score, colour photography, good acting and continuity, and yet it never sparks into any form of life, nor is it ever as heartwarming as it thinks it is. The tale is told as a flashback, as Bindle reflects on his late nagging wife, to whom of course, he now realises, he owes everything. But the point gets drowned.
I liked best Patrick Newell's part as Bindle's officious brother-in-law, and Janina Faye as the only person who warms the old cockney's heart.

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EGGHEAD'S ROBOT
Made for the Children's Film Foundation, mostly shot on location.
(released 1970, directed by Milo Lewis, 5*)

The second of two films about Paul 'Egghead' Wentworth (Keith Chegwin), who has designed his very own robot in the garden shed, unbeknowns to his parents (Richard Wattis and Patricia Routledge).
Egghead is hopeless at cricket, but he has programmed his robot to play brilliantly, so well in fact that he even gets two batsmen out with one ball! You wait for the contraption to go wrong, but it seems success is the name of the game.
It's hard to keep up the joke for a whole hour, so next dad is helped by Egghead in the garden, and this time the flowers are uprooted instead of weeds. However reprogramming rights the wrong.
Then it's more cricket. A constant obstacle is the park keeper (the splendid Roy Kinnear) who chases them all round the park and every time lands in the muddy pond. But it's only fair the kids do too. Egghead's subterfuge is to pose in drag, well this must be something drastically new for a children's film, with the line that surely J Arthur Rank would not have approved, "strip!" "You can't do that."
When mum turns Egghead's power off, in the middle of performing the hat trick, Egghead collapses at the wicket, worried faces all round, and he is rushed by concerned ambulance men to the hospital. Here the film joyfully revives, as does Egghead in time for a happy conclusion

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THE GREAT GAME
(1953 directed by Maurice Elvey, Merton Park Studios, 4*)

T' tale o' Burnville Utd, a northern soccer team in top flight, dominated by wealthy chairman Joe Lawson- James Hayter's role that dominates t'film. There's the usual string of supporting stars, Thora Hird providing an unlikely love interest, and Diana Dors scene stealing.
'Tis t'story of the very different world of Fifties football, where you stood up to watch, all men wore hats, and 99% of t'crowd were male. But with t'team facing relegation after a 5-1 drubbing, there are some rather up to the minute underhand moves by Lawson to buy centre forward Nutter (Glyn Houston) for the sum of 20,500, and, don't faint, 14 per week for Nutter.
Here's perhaps the best scene as Nutter's fiance (Sheila Shand Gibbs) argues with Lawson over the process which nets the player rather little.
This is no Roy of the Rovers, yet is boasts interesting parallels with today's game in which many a chairman knows so little just like Lawson, whose wheeler dealing finally costs him his job

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THE DARK MAN (1950, directed by Jeffrey Dell)

One of those broody atmospheric openings that are the very essence of post war UK cinema - a car drives to a remote spot. Out jumps a passenger (Maxwell Reed) and knocks at a door. "I want a word with you," is the opening gambit. ... A young girl cyclist witnesses the dark man on his killing spree.
A Scotland Yard detective tries to prevent his star witness from elimination. Edward Underdown plays this part with charm and dignity and is supported as the local super, by the ever reliable William Hartnell.
Only the overlong final chase spoils this broody film.

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